For previous blog entries of our ride through NZ, Australia, South East Asia, China and Central Asia, click on the little arrows beside the dates in the Blog Archive below and use the scroll down menu.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Thailand - Satun to Aranyaprathet

Route: Satun - Krabi - Ko Phi phi - Surithani - Chumphon - Bangkok - Chon Buri - Tha Takiap - Khlong Hat - Aranyaprathet

Distance cycled: 13,381kms

We arrive in Thailand
After a one and a half hour boat ride from Langkawi we arrived in the Kingdom of Thailand. As usual getting our bikes on and off the boat had been problematic and Ben had to balance on a narrow post on the jetty to pass them down to us. No health and safety here.We got our visas stamped and cycled 12 kms into Satun town. Very few of the road signs were in English and being surrounded by signs and notices in Thai felt a bit like having severe dyslexia. (Did you hear about the dyslexic pimp who opened a warehouse and the dyslexic devil worshipper who sold his soul to Santa?)There wasn't much doing in Satun so we decided to do a 60 km ride to a little town where some hotels were marked on the map. It was good to get on our way and get some distnce between us and the port.


As we sat sweating outside a shop a man came up to Stevie handing him several bottles of cold water and said “from thai police”. Thanks thai police. We cycled on until we reached a town called La Ngu with a little complex of chalets. As usual, there were no tourists except for us and we soon realised that unlike in Malaysia, very few thai people out of the tourist areas spoke English. However, a young girl with a smattering of English showed us into a huge room big enough for the 4 of us and 4 bikes and told us the cost was 250 baht(about a fiver). We did a round of high fives to celebrate finding such bargain accomodation and Lucy and Stevie treated us again by paying for it. There only seemed to be one restaurant nearby so we went up for dinner. Before we left, a guy in a delivery van handed us a 36 pack of small flavoured milk cartons. We got through what we could, giving much of it to a malnourished dog. Ben stayed in the room, watching TV and drinking milk and missed the best meal we've had in Thailand so far. Due to the lack of communication, we asked for the one thing we could say in thai, Tom Yam soup. It was delicious and the fresh taste of lime leaves, lemongrass, shallots and ginger was mouthwatering. The whole meal including rice and drinks came to under 5 pounds for all of us. We are still talking about that Tom Yam soup.

Save money on plane fares and hotels - make Tom Yam at home

We did a long ride the next day through some great scenery. We cycled past ornate Buddhist temples and waved to monks in their bright orange robes. The thai people cheered us on as we rode through villages. We noticed that the driving was more reckless here than in Malaysia where most people drive well and so kept our wits about us. We ate great food in roadside eateries and soon got to know some great thai dishes. Some of our favourites are of course thai green curry, tom yam soup, pad thai(flat noodles) and papaya salad. No roti canai here though. The food here is the best and most flavoursome I've ever tasted.We also buy freshly chopped and very cheap watermelon and pineapples from carts at the side of the road. There's nothing more refreshing in this hot weather.

It's quite common to see kids of around 8-10 riding scooters here

It's amazing what you can fit on the back of a yute

We found a funny wee guesthouse that night where the elderly couple running it spoke just about no english. They showed us into a room that didn't look or smell like it had been occupied in a while but after 110 kms we weren't fussed. The cost: 300 baht. We bought a few beers from them and tried to get some food. There was no shops around but a guy ran us down to a stall selling greasy thai pancakes, the only hot food that seemed to be available. The couple running the guesthouse found it hilarious that the 4 of us wanted to share a room and are probably still talking about it now

We really had to learn some thai fast so I got a phrase book and mini dictionary from Tesco(yes that's right, Tesco). Our thai friend Fon from Townsville in Australia who we met through Warm Showers had given me some useful phrases so we learned them as well. However, thai's not easy and as it's a tonal language, a mispronunciation can give a word a totally different meaning. Consequently, no-one has a clue what I'm on about. Also, gestures here genuinely don't work. The thai's just don't use it as a form of communication. Ben prides himself on his mime skills but they're wasted here. As Matthew from Couch Surfing pointed out though, a race like the Italians could probably rely completely on gestures and dispose with language altogether!

Better learn how to say something - quick!

Pak Meng beach

The next day we did a short 50 km ride to the coast which was a bit of a detour but we were all missing the sea. We cycled along a quiet flat stretch of coastal road and arrived at Pak Meng beach. This was a bizarre little town just about on the cusp of tourism but only really appealing to thai tourists as opposed to westerners. We were the only white folks there. We needed a rest and booked into a little chalet where we had a room each and a shared veranda. Despite Pak Meng being far from exciting we stayed for 3 days. We spent a lot of time in the super-cheap internet cafe which cost a mere 10 baht per hour and at last got the Malaysia blog published. There were so many stray dogs in this town and they were all in a pitiful state. No one could care less about them and they were scabby, undernourished, cowering wrecks. It's heartbreaking.

Little George who disappeared the following day
We loved you George, even if no-one else did

At Pak Meng, this dog ran up to Ben as if he was his long lost master. It was very touching

We left Pak Meng at 6.30 in the morning and arrived in Krabi town over 100 kms away by lunchtime. What an amazing ride. We were fast and drafted each other the whole way developing a great system of taking the lead for 5 kms at a time before dropping to the back. It was to be our last ride with Stevie and Lucy so they certainly finished on a high. During that ride we were chased by at least 10 dogs. Some gave up after a short sprint but others persevered longer almost catching our heels. However, Ben has the best way of warding them off by scaring the s**t out of them(and us) with a loud yell that sends them running with their tails between their legs. Even the most demented of dogs wouldn't think twice about coming near us after such a scolding! Getoutofit!

Stevie and Lucy clocked up more than 1000kms

Only joking. It was empty in the first place. We poured the contents into a plastic bottle not Stevie's mouth

Ben and Stevie drafted these guys for a few kms, much to their amusement
A shrine, not too sure what the hundreds of zebras signify but why not eh?

11am? Time for a thai whisky

Or maybe not

Tropical gardens - not bad for 6 quid
And so we booked ourselves and our bikes on the next boat to the island of Ko Phi Phi. This was a treat for us but felt it was a bit of a must see. The neighbouring island of Phi Phi Li is where “The Beach” was filmed. For those of you who have seen it, need I say more. When we arrived we were as usual, inundated with offers of accomodation but we went off to find our own place. There are no roads on the island so everyone gets around by foot or bicycle. It's busy with people but the lack of engine noise makes for a much more pleasant stay. Lucy and I left the boys in a cafe and went off to find a hotel. We arrived at Tropical gardens. At first I was reluctant to drag our bikes up the stony winding steps that led to our chalet but Lucy was right, it was idyllic and worth the effort as we were staying for a few days. We got rooms next to each other for 300 baht each right next to the swimming pool and beautiful open-air reading room. It was a tropical secret hideaway with a super-relaxed feel. Being a 10 minute walk from the town was great also for getting away from the madness.

The beach by night

The town was of course tourist central and we met people from every nationality. As usual, the French made an appearance as did the Irish in vast numbers. Islands like this are a bit like Disney World for adults, every hedonistic pleasure you could ever hope to indulge in. There's great food on every corner, cheap booze, shopping, clubbing, massage, swimming, scuba diving, jumping off cliffs. The list goes on. It's great fun though especially if you have a load of money to throw at the situation. The beaches were picture perfect: white sands and crystal green waters with a backdrop of huge tree-covered mountainous islands.

Also very nice

No thanks

On our second night there, Lucy and Stevie had a quiet night in. Ben and I went out for a beer and managed to score 3 free drinks. We were also introduced to the thai phenomenon of buckets. You buy a plastic bucket containing a half bottle of thai whisky or vodka, a can of coke and a bottle of thai red bull. The bucket is filled with ice and the drinks are unceremoniously sloshed together. Throw in a few straws for you and your mates to share and Bob's your Uncle. (actually Bob is my Uncle).Also, we've heard that thai red bull contains 10% amphetamine so it really does give you wings. On our way home we passed “The Reggae Bar” which has a full-size boxing ring as it's centrepiece. We watched a couple of thai boxers go head to head. At first it looked pretty impressive but we soon realised it was thai boxing's answer to WWF wrestling. Entertaining nonetheless. Then it was the turn of the drunken testosterone fuelled tourists. What a spectacle.

The highlight of our stay on Phi Phi was certainly not the Reggae bar but our action packed daytrip to neighbouring Phi Phi Li and Bamboo island. We jumped on a boat with around 20 others in the morning and went to the island where “The Beach” was filmed. The place was heaving with other tourist boats(God knows how busy it gets in high season) but it was absolutely stunning. We jumped off the boat for a swim in the crystal waters before heading off to Maya Bay. We spent an hour there swimming, basking in the sun and taking photos of the stunning and iconic view behind us. Back on the boat some cake and fruit were dished out and we stopped for some snorkelling. Next we stopped at monkey beach, aptly named as there are in fact many monkeys on the beach. Then off to another picture-perfect strip of sand where we had a fried rice lunch then back on the boat to another snorkelling site. Next we headed to Bamboo island, a tiny, palm tree-covered unspoilt bit of paradise. Back on the boat, we set sail for home as the sun set behind us. It had been a fun and memorable day and amazingly good value when you consider it cost 8 pounds per person.

Viking cave

Bamboo island

Monkey island

Happy days - Maya beach. Recognise the background?

As we sat in a cafe on our second last day on the island, a young woman came up and asked if she could join us as she didn't like eating alone. We had lunch together and invited her up to the hotel later. I admired her direct approach as a way of meeting new people. It's a shame most of us are too shy to meet new people this way. We struck up a great friendship with Meg and spent the rest of our time on the island with her.

Meg and Mog

On Phi Phi there seemed to be very few dogs but plenty well fed, well looked after, friendly cats. It was so nice to see animals in this condition and made the island a much nicer place to be. We have noticed a lot of callousness towards animals here in Thailand and in general, animals cower away from humans in fear. Not good. In Malaysia, the treatment of animals seemed far better and we noticed lots of people feeding and being kind to animals.
A cat in the fridge at Papaya restaurant. Apparently, he loves it in there. We opened the door to see if he wanted out but he was happy "chillin" in the fridge

Stevie gives the friendly owner of Papaya restaurant a taste of his dinner. Yes, very nice

Enjoyed the Tom Yam? Here's a recipe for Thai green curry

It's worth mentioning also that Phi Phi island was one of the worst-hit places in the tsunami. The area of main development is simply a huge sandbar which joins two separate islands. It was totally exposed to the full force of the wave and as it happened in the middle of the afternoon, the number of deaths and devastation it caused was horrendous. The island has got itself firmly back on it's feet though and locals tend not to talk about it too much. However, people are all too aware though that it could happen again and tsunami evacuation routes are signposted throughout the island.

Picture taken shortly after tsunami

Same view as above. Chilling to think that from this viewpoint we climbed up to, tourists would have watched the tsunami coming in

Hopefully next time everyone will be prepared for it

Our break on Phi Phi was amazing. On a trip like this, we need to dip in and out of the touristy spots as we spend so much time in little towns being the only fa – rangs. Places like this are expensive though. We arrived back in Krabi thankful that the price of food and accomodation was back to normal.

Our neighbours at tropical gardens

Just as we were getting off the boat, I noticed one of the luggage guys picking up a familiar looking object. It was Lucy's bag containing her charger. Her pannier had burst open, spilling most of its contents into the sea. Her and Stevie gathered their sodden belongings together and assessed the damage: a waterlogged ipod, charger, diary and memory sticks containing photos. It took an hour of heated but very diplomatic persuasion on Lucy's part and a visit to the police station to get a signed statement for the insurance company to say that the items had indeed fallen in the sea. The women in the office were terrified to sign anything incase they were held accountable in court. This seems to be a common worry in Thailand where, like in Britain, people have the mercinary attitude of “where there's blame, there's a claim”.In Thailand, you'll get nowhere if you lose your temper. Thai people respond well to smiling so it's important to keep a grin on your chops no matter how pissed off you are. Losing your temper in public is considered insulting to both parties and anyone else within earshot.

So the 4 of us sat outside Krabi police station eating as Lucy called it, some “goodbye muesli” as when this last supper had ended, team Roti Canai would be no more. Lucy and Stevie were heading back to KL and then off on their own fantastic adventure to Nepal and India and we were cycling back to Scotland. We had grown so close in our 5 weeks together and the time we spent with them was memorable beyond words. After their trip, they would be moving back to NZ so we knew we wouldn't see them in a long time. Tears were shed and kind words spoken as we waved them goodbye and then, it was just the 2 of us again.

 We cycled into Krabi town to look for a hotel and as is usually the way in life, when one door closes, another one opens. We met Matthias moments after leaving Stevie and Lucy. He explained he had cycled from Germany and was on his way to NZ! Without further ado, we booked into the same guesthouse as him. I must mention Smile guesthouse in Krabi as it is an exceptional place. As soon as we walked in, we noticed the place felt very zen: a peaceful, clean, homely place to be. We asked for the cheapest room available. When we were told the price was 150 baht(3 pounds), we wondered what we'd get for our money.However, the room was just beautiful: freshly laundered sheets, a super-comfortable mattress, spotlessly clean bathroom and a roof terrace for socialising.We also got free internet access and free tea and coffee for our 3 quid. It had to be the bargain of the century. The people who run Smile guesthouse are just wonderful and it's the best hotel we've stayed in so far. Go there. 13 Kongka Rd, Paknam District, Moung, Krabi. Tel: 075 624015/081 8949137(

Our room at Smile guesthouse

We went out for dinner with Matthias that night to the local night market. As we enjoyed our delicious food, we swapped stories and information. It was pretty amazing: Matthias had taken more or less exactly our planned route from Europe and we had just taken the route from NZ that he would be following over the next year. Matthias is a great guy and his good company and the fantastic guesthouse convinced us we should spend another night there. We ate out together the next night at an even better food market where we sampled amazing local food. Before we parted company we swapped a list of contacts and cheap accomodation for our different routes. Amazingly, Matthias has a guitar strapped to the back of his bike and, as a talented musician, makes money through busking when he is in more affluent countries. I admire anyone who does a trip like this on their own, it's hard sometimes with two. Best of luck Matthias.

Krabi Monastery

And his steed

The next day we cycled out of town with Matthias and said our goodbyes as he cycled off down the road we had been on only a week before. We managed to clock up 115 kms which was, as it turned out, a bad idea. After a week off the bikes, we should have eased ourselves into the cycling with a 60 or 70 km ride. However, we were keen to get to Bangkok before the 31st to see our friend Nung. By the end of the ride that night we had both strained our knees. We arrived in a little town called Phanom. Nothing much was doing there but we managed to find a room for 250 baht. The proprietors spoke no English but we got by with our smattering of thai. I've been studying every night since Lucy and Stevie left and making good progress. I had got pretty lazy with it having spent so much time on Phi Phi where everyone speaks English. That night, in that lonely little town, we both got a serious bout of homesickness and felt a million miles away from anything or anyone familiar.

Further down the road we did indeed see a restaurant called "Cabbages and Condoms'
Thailand - the dogs bollocks

Next morning at 6.45 am there was a knock at the door. As we were both half asleep we ignored it. Then half an hour later, another knock. This time I got up and the guy who'd shown us in the night before started talking to me in thai. I had no idea what he wanted but soon ascertained that he was telling us to go. I was outraged. What sort of hotel has a check-out time of 6.45 am? I grabbed my phrasebook and managed to tell him it was too early. I've no idea what his reply was but in the end I closed the door and went back to sleep. Then at 8.15 he came again. This time we got up but took an hour to leave. The guy had a serious attitude problem and I doubt he would have treated Thai guests in such a manner.
A very sad sight of a cow with a tether so short she couldn't move her head

I thought I could eat hot food till I came here

A thai man we met at Pak Meng beach admitted to us that a lot of his Thai friends who had shops or businesses openly admitted to charging foreigners at least double the price. We knew this but some people really take the piss. Anyway two can play that game and if the price isn't right we go somewhere else.We know what things cost now.Most people are extremely fair though and seem to give us the same price as the thais. Some people here laugh at you when you approach them or ask them something and not in a nice way. Ben told a guy at the table next to us that his meal was a- roi(delicious). He hid his contempt with a smile but then I heard him making fun of Ben to his friends for not putting the word krap on the end to make it polite. No points for at least making an effort with this guy then. However, most people we meet are friendly, sweet and helpful but nowhere's perfect.

Our scabby wee room in Surithani

The next day we cycled to Surithani by which point we had crossed from the West to the east coast. All 4 of our knees were aching and Ben did his last few kms with one leg. We are pleased to say the Thais give the Malaysians a run for their money when it comes to being good supporters and we still receive cheers, thumbs up and beeps of the horn at regular intervals. We booked into a cheap dive of a hotel and despite needing to rest our knees, set off the next day in search of more desireable lodgings. We noticed that Matthias had given us the name of a hotel he had stayed in in Chaiya, 50 kms up the road so we decided to head for there. We got a 150 baht room at the Udon Lap hotel. It was a much better than the last place and after checking-in, the owners just left us to get on with it. We seemed to be the only guests in this ramshackle old building and decided to stay 2 nights to rest our weary legs.

On this occasion, I found it hard walking around this little town. I felt so out of place. It was a nice little town with nice people but sees no tourists whatsoever so people couldn't figure out why we there..We ate a quick bowl of delicious Tom Yam soup and headed back to the hotel where we could relax. We actually had a great laugh together in our shabby little room. Ben cut my hair and made a damn good job of it and we relaxed, did shiatsu and learned thai. When times are hard, we always have each other.

We found a tiny kitten sitting in the middle of the road so carried him to the next monastery and left him with the other cats 

Never mind more schools and hospitals, what every town needs is one of these

Next day, halfway through our ride to Langsung, Ben's knee started playing up. We had hoped to get to Chumphon 150 kms away but it wasn't to be. It was a great ride up there on a quiet flat road. Arriving in Langsung, we pulled into a restaurant for some khaw-phad(fried rice) and a coke. As we ate, the heavens opened as they do on a daily basis here and we watched as the surrounding area started to look like the set of Waterworld with Kevin Costner. A lady led us on her scooter to a nearby hotel where we had a double bed each and free wi-fi. Langsung was an easier town to be in than Chaiya as the residents seemed far more unphased by unexpected visitors.

Our room in Langsung

Ben's knee had become a real problem. As we set off to Chumphon the next day, the pain got worse and worse until towards the end of the ride, he was cycling with one leg. However, we made it and booked ourselves into the Farang bar when we arrived. Chumphon would be just a normal little thai town with no tourists if it wasn't for the daily ferries which go from there to the popular island of Ko Tao. Consequently, it has become a stopping off point for those waiting on a boat but really has nothing to offer in the way of tourism. The Farang Bar is the only place tourists congregate in Chumphon but it is pretty much a soulless place. However, it was cheap and had free wi-fi so we checked into a dungeon-like room which opened directly onto the noisy bar.

A bit under the weather

The next morning I awoke to a pounding headache, nausea, aching bones and a fever. Hardly able to move, I spent the whole day sick in our dark, stuffy room. I ate nothing that day. The next day I felt even worse with serious nausea and weakness every time I moved. So I spent a second day in the room and managed a banana smoothie.By day 3 I was no better and managed half a plate of rice and a yoghurt. I simply couldn't eat. By the 4th day, I had a rash all over my neck and back and was convinced I had contracted dengue Fever, chicken Gunya or even worse, malaria. So we went up to the local hospital for a blood test. We were both impressed by the hospital in Chumphon. They were professional, didn't leave me waiting very long and the lovely Thai nurses were extremely caring. The blood tests thankfully came back negative and the doctor explained it must just be a bad viral infection. I was so relieved as I knew that if it had been Dengue or such like, I couldn't have carried on cycling.

We managed to escape the Farang bar and get a room at Suda's round the corner. It was a restful place and far more condusive to recuperation although with no internet or TV and me lying on the bed groaning all day it was pretty hard going for Ben. I was ill for another day and finally woke up on day 5 feeling better. The rash had gone and I was able to get up and walk around again. The problem though was that I had eaten next to nothing in almost a week and had lost a lot of weight. Consequently, my appetite was non-existent. I spent the next 3 days torturously trying to put food in my mouth and swallow. It was a horrible experience but I forced myself to eat the bare minimum knowing that if I didn't, I'd be on my way to anorexia in a few days. After a few days of this I started to get my appetite back and now I am eating normally again. Me, anorexic? That's a joke if ever I heard one. As you all know I can eat for Scotland but it just takes a few days of illness for your body to shut down. I am better now and putting weight back on.

We did a short, very leisurely ride up the coast to Bang Saphan. It was a beautiful stretch of coastline which we were able to appreciate at our average speed of 15 kms/h. I was weak as a kitten still.  On our first night we camped on the beach outside a resort for free. The guys there even invited us to share a barbeque with them. The Pathiu beach resort is a great place to stay if you want total relaxation. It's a quiet, unspoilt bit of coastline.

I fell off my bike twice that day due to fatigue

Bang Boet

The second night we stayed in a cabin at bang Boet a little further North. The ride was really pleasant.We had arranged to be at our next Warm Showers hosts by the start of the week and didn't want to mess them around so we had no choice but to take the train to Bangkok. It's the first time we've covered any considerable distance(400 kms) not by bike and we were disappointed to break the continuity. However, it was for the best. At Bang Saphan train station we booked on to the night train to Bangkok. The guy serving us looked surprised when we asked for a 3rd class ticket as most foreigners take the more expensive first class sleeper. 3rd class was cheap though, 10 pounds for us and the bikes. Back home it costs almost that to go from Glasgow to Motherwell less than 20 miles away.

When we got on the train, we were met by a scene of chaos. It was rammed with people, dogs, luggage and half-naked children. We squeezed onto a seat and smiled at our fellow passengers who clearly wondered why the hell we weren't in 1st class. For the next 8 hours we sat sweating and bolt upright on an uncomfortable bench facing another equally uncomfortable elderly couple. There was a constant stream of young girls cruising up and down the aisles selling food and drink. It was only 8 hours of discomfort and worth it to save our much-needed pennies. It was also a far more interesting experience than going to sleep in a cabin for 8 hours.

Can you give just 2 pounds a month to help a man like this get back on his feet?

In the wee hours of the morning we disembarked in Bangkok and cycled a short distance to our Warm Showers host. Bangkok street numbers make no sense a lot of the time and it took us a while to find the house. When we arrived at Jenny and Jay's we were pleasantly surprised. Despite being right in the midst of the Bangkok madness, their house was a quiet little haven tucked down an alley in the swanky area of Sukhumvit. Once inside the house, you'd never know you were in the middle of such a huge city. We were given a lovely room to ourselves, wi-fi, a key and told to make ourselves at home which we did with ease. The great thing about staying at Jenny and Jay's was their hands off approach. They did their thing and we did ours whilst still being made to feel very welcome. For that reason, it was one of the best Warm Showers stays we've had. Thanks for giving us the freedom to explore the city with no expectations from us.

Jenny and Jay

Me working out in Lumphini Park - oh dear
We skyped Ben's grandparents whilst in Bangkok. Hello Gran and Cass!

We got out to see a bit of the city visiting Lumpini Park, Chinatown and some temples. We also spent much of our time just sauntering around Sukhumvit, eating out and soaking up the atmosphere. Bangkok is by far the biggest city we've ever visited and crossing from one side to the other takes a few hours on public transport. As for cycling, it wasn't as bad as we'd imagined. The drivers here are used to scooters weaving around the traffic and we're not too different. In Bangkok the sole of my SPD's completely fell off. Time for some new shoes. Ben's were also being held together with gaffa tape so we got him a pair too. A huge thankyou to the Lady at Probike( gave us a whopping 20% off our shoes and pedals. This is the best bike shop in Bangkok and you can find them at 237/2 Sarasin Rd, just beside Lumphini Park. Tel: 02 253 3384

A very skinny Margo arrives in Bangkok

We met up with another two cyclists, Nuno and Monica who were taking a similar route to us on a 3 month tour of S.E Asia. Note to self: don't arrange to meet people in Chinatown. It's an insane place where you're guaranteed to get lost. We hope to catch up with those guys in Cambodia. Unwittingly, these two accepted a super-cheap tuk-tuk ride. Thinking they had just got a good deal they set off to come and meet us. Before they knew it, the driver, on commision, had ushered them into a tailors and instead of getting driven to see us, Nuno found himself getting measured up for a suit he didn't want. Apparently angry beige is really his colour.


Nuno and Monica

In Bangkok we rediscovered the simple pleasure of travelling by bus. For around 14p you can jump on a bus and travel across the city. Easier said than done though as the public transport system takes a hell of a lot of getting used to. However once on board it's great for observing your fellow passengers and watching city life go by at a frantic pace from an open window. Bangkok is an amazing city and we only got to see a few small parts of it. It's fascinating, stressful, hugely multi-cultural and never stops.

Our last 2 nights in Bangkok were spent with Rene from Warm Showers. He lived in the On Nut area of the city which was on our way out of town. We spent only 2 days with him and his girlfriend but we left full of respect for this man. He is kind, hugely optimistic and full nof interesting tales to tell. Another one of life's great men. We got on so well together and it was great to speak French for a couple of days. We hope to see you in Belgium at the end of our trip.

The lovely Rene

Ben builds up our new wheels at Rene's
We found some new born pups on the street

We left Bangkok and cycled out of the city. It was an uninspiring ride to say least, until we saw this............

This photo really doesn't do it justice, it was as tall as a 15 storey building

Just the day before, we had at last got round to joining Couch Surfing. Couch Sufring is another amazing network bringing people together and encouraging generosity, co-operation and trust in your fellow man. The only difference between it and Warm Showers is that Warm Showers is specifically for cyclists. We checked on the site to see if anyone was available for hosting around the Chon Buri area and that night, after a 110 km ride, found ourselves at Matt and Lulu's.Our first CS experience couldn't have gone better. These two are a wonderful couple who at short notice, agreed to put us up for 2 nights. They were the perfect hosts and as we lay in bed that night in the spare room with the cool air from the fan hitting us, we couldn't believe our good fortune.Matt took us out to dinner then to a music bar in the small town of Phanat Nikkom where we enjoyed Thai whisky and coke and Matt's company. As well as Matt's comedy factor, he was also a fountain of information and gave us a better idea of where the Thais are coming from. It was he who pointed out the futility of trying to use gestures here and also explained that the Thais often use laughter to hide embarrassment. This helped us feel a bit better about the constant tittering.Our Thai adventure started off with a couple of bad experiences which left us feeling a bit negative about the country. However, as we travelled further North we started to see the honesty and genuine friendliness of Thai people.

Matt sporting thundercats t-shirt

We left Matt's and cycled East towards the Cambodian border and for the first time in ages, despite having a detailed map in front of us, we got completely and utterly lost! It would have been far less amusing cycling through dirt roads in the back of beyond with only a compass to guide us had we been in a hurry. However, we had plenty time on our hands and saw the funny side of it.

Then for the first time, the thing we had been dreading which we knew we we'd come across sooner or later. I saw the dog in the middle of the road from a distance and could see he was still moving. I knew straight away he'd been hit. We approached him and assessed the damage. He was in a bad state with a seeping wound on his backside and testicles. We got out our tarpaulin and gently lifted him onto it. As we picked him up, it was clear his back and both back legs were broken. We put him in the shade and tried to comfort him. He was severly dehydrated and sadly we made the mistake of giving him water. This only served to revive him a little and prolong his agony. He would have died quicker without our intervention. We stayed with him for a while and asked a couple in a nearby house to come and look at him. We guess they said they could do nothing to help him and left. We stayed with him for a while to try and keep the ants from biting his wound. We didn't want him to die alone and prayed he would slip away soon. The water was a huge mistake especially as neither of us took the decision to put him out of his misery. He was still alive when we left him and before we cycled off he looked into our eyes as if it to say, “Oh, you're leaving”. This incident crushed us both. We didn't do the right thing by him and the look in his eyes as we left him will stay with us for a long time.

The previous night we ate our dinner in a roadside eatery. We had decided that we had become far too soft staying in hotels every night and, despite the heat, asked if we could put the tent up. The ladies here were wonderful and we spent the night watching a magnificent thunder storm. The tent was like a sweat lodge again but we were happy to have spent a night back in it. After eating breakfast, the ladies topped up our water bottles and sent us on our way with a huge bunch of bananas. We did a short day the next day due to spending almost 3 hours in a roadside shelter hiding from the torrential rain and after 50 kms stopped for some lunch in Tha Takiap.

Back in the tent again

Happy now Craig
As we enjoyed some Pad Thai noodles in a cafe, we asked if we could put our tent up anywhere. The lady recommended we go and ask at the temple. We have tried to spent the night in a few buddhist temples but on each occasion there was no-one there. Just then, a young woman who spoke a bit of English came over and told us we may not be safe in the temple as young lads(thai neds) hang around there drinking and vandalising the temple. We were shocked to here this as we've never seen any anti-social behaviour the whole time we've been in Asia. Also, buddhism is revered by all so it was a surprise to hear they can get away with it. Though it was a surprise to see some monks puffing away on fags on the steps of a temple we cycled past I must say. Buddhism here seems very different to tibetan buddhism and it seems as though just about anyone can become a monk if they wish. However I don't know enough about it to really comment.To return to my story, this young woman then suggested that we stay with her aunt, a couple of kms away. Within ten minutes her cousin, Ut had came to meet us on a scooter and we followed him into the countryside. We were met with a very warm welcome by Yong and Lerm who invited us to sleep in the house instead of the tent.

Yong and Lerm

They had the most beautiful house, basic but with a wonderful, homely atmosphere. A bed was made on the floor for us in a spare room with a huge mozzie tent round it. After our first night there we got up to set off for Cambodia but were invited to stay a second night. We accepted the kind offer and enjoyed a leisiurely day in the house. Yung cooked the best Thai food and we ate till fit to burst(one thing I love about thai culture is these guys love their food!)We looked at family photos and did a slideshow of ours on the computer. These guys spoke a little English but young Ut(13) was a big help to us all as he studies english at school. I am slowly learning that when a language barrier exists, I don't have to bust a gut trying to make smalltalk in a language I can barely speak. We can all enjoy just being together so that's what we did. No awkwardness, no uncomfortable silences, easy. Meeting these guys was a completely unexpected and wonderful surprise. In many parts of the thai countryside, life runs at an unbelievably slow pace where most of the days business is conducted from a hammock. It's a great life and the stillness you can experience out here is amazing. Yong and Lerm sent us on our way with a packed lunch and this note:

People like this make the world a happy place

We then cycled to Khlong Hat on a road where several people had warned us about rogue elephants. As we cycled along we saw that elephants were indeed nearby by the number of giant dumps on the road. We could also see where they had been making their way from the dense forest out into the road with branches scattered all over and trees uprooted. We made our way through the National park though without seeing them which is probably for the best. We arrived in Khlong Hat and booked into a "resort' in the middle of nowhere where we were the only guests. The people running the show just wanted our cash and weren't very nice.

Armed soldiers line the road that runs along the Cambodian border to check vehicles for illegal immigrants. Despite the machine guns they were all lovely guys!

Then the following morning we did our last day of cycling in Thailand, 50 kms to the border town of Aranyaprathet. We were flying along but had to keep stoppping to shelter from the torrential downpours that occur several times a day at this time of year. On Matthias recommendation, we went straight to the Aran Garden 2 hotel which is where we are now. 230 baht per night plus free wi-fi. Having free internet access is great and we chatted to our good friend Lisa on Skype for 2 hours. Twas lovely and very, very silly sheep lady. It's a lovely hotel and spotlessly clean. Tomorrow we enter Cambodia, country number 7. With over 13,000 kms cycled, we're almost half way. What's waiting there for us I wonder?

Thought for the day; As another British winter looms, fear not. Just remember, at least we're not there.